Winter brings severe cold spells to many parts of the country, and cold weather often puts your plumbing system at risk. If the mercury drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, uninsulated pipes can freeze and burst. Plus, those sub-freezing temperatures mean your water heater is working extra hard to keep your home powered.
That’s why it’s important to prepare your plumbing system for the season.
“Some other common problems we see during winter are freezing outside faucets, clogged drains due to increased usage during the holidays, and frozen well pumps,” he says Doyle JamesPresident of Mr. Rooter Plumbing.
Let’s take a closer look at the winter plumbing problems that plague homeowners so you can prepare for the holiday season. After all, you don’t want your holiday guests knocking on your neighbors’ door in the middle of the night to use their bathroom.
1. Leaks in the sprinkler or irrigation system
Homeowners should winterize their irrigation system before winter sets in.
A home’s irrigation system is part of the system that supplies fresh water to the home, which means that all plumbing and fittings are part of that system. This includes your sprinklers and other watering equipment.
“This involves removing all of the water that is contained in your irrigation pipes,” he says Travis Sewell, Licensed Plumber and Field Service Consultant for bluefrog Plumbing + Drain. “This precautionary measure depressurizes your irrigation system, reducing the risk of irrigation system freezing to almost zero.”
2. Leaks in outdoor faucets or hoses
Hose bibs are the little taps on the outside of your home that are used to attach a garden hose for outdoor maintenance tasks. They are very likely to freeze and cause future damage if not properly insulated.
“Cover any outdoor faucet with an insulated cover,” says Sewell. “Also make sure you remove all tubes from your tube bibs.”
3. Lack of insulation on water pipes
Your exposed water pipes have a higher chance of freezing and bursting, so be sure to protect them.
“It’s important to make sure all of your plumbing is insulated, especially plumbing in areas of the home that aren’t insulated, like your garage and attic,” says Sewell.
Water heaters, water softeners, and water filtration systems are often located in uninsulated areas.
Watch: How to keep your pipes from freezing this winter
4. Frozen pipes leading to burst pipes
Are you facing several days with sub-zero temperatures? Don’t let your pipes freeze.
“Water expands when it freezes and can break or burst a water pipe,” says James. “The broken water pipe can cause serious flooding in the house.”
In freezing weather, turn off the faucets and open the closet doors to allow warm air to reach the pipes. A proactive solution to preventing frozen pipes is to use heat tracing cables, which are wires that are powered and wrapped around water pipes.
“This system is typically installed on your main water supply line, where it enters the structure,” says Sewell.
5. Frozen well pumps
In cold weather, well pumps can freeze, preventing homes from receiving water.
“Place well pumps in well-insulated, heated areas to prevent freezing,” says James. “Add insulation around the utility lines to further reduce the chance of the lines freezing.”
6. Clogged indoor and outdoor drains
During the holiday season, you’re likely to be spending more time than ever cooking in the kitchen. Just make sure you don’t compromise the effectiveness of your sink drain.
“Putting the wrong things in the sink can cause clogs very quickly,” says James. “Some things you definitely don’t want to throw in the bin are grease, eggshells, coffee grounds, and vegetable peelings.”
James also recommends running cold water down the drain for about 30 seconds to flush out any leftover food.
Your outdoor gullies also need some attention, especially when snow or ice builds up.
“Removing debris from the garden, like leaves and small branches, will help prevent clogging in drains,” says James.